Animal Attack Files

Woman's arm bitten off in zoo attack

By Jay Hughes, Associated Press, 11/20/98 16:23

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A tapir pulled a zookeeper into its cage and bit her arm off as she tried to feed the animal Friday morning.

The woman, who also suffered facial injuries and a punctured lung, was in critical condition and undergoing surgery after the attack at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

The arm was detached about the mid-bicep level, said Allen Poston, a University Hospital spokesman. The arm was too mangled and contaminated and could not be reattached, Poston said.

The woman's name wasn't released until her relatives could be told.

Zoo officials aren't certain why the Malayan tapir named Melody attacked the keeper, who was feeding the animal before the zoo opened. The tapir's 2-month-old baby was also in the cage.

``As I understand it, she opened the door to push the food in and the female grabbed her arm,'' said Steve Wylie, zoo executive director. He said the tapir dragged the keeper into the enclosure and began mauling her.

A groundsworker ran for help and a group of employees managed to drag the keeper from the cage.

A tapir is piglike in appearance and about the size of a donkey. It is related to the horse and rhinoceros. Tapirs browse on twigs and are herbivores.

The animal, which can weigh several hundred pounds, is found in the jungles of Central and South America and Southeast Asia.

The tapir at the Oklahoma City Zoo will remain on display.

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